Nathan Cunliffe: Illustrator in Korea


Nathan Cunliffe is a freelance editorial and children’s illustrator living in Jeju Island, South Korea. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BFA in Illustration.

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Tell us about where you grew up and how you became an artist. So I grew up in Los Angeles, CA and my entire life I had planned on being either a paleontologist or a marine biologist. I was a very very young reader and would devour children’s books and young adult books; over time I fell in love with literature and so my aim is to be a children’s illustrator. I took my first art class when I was a junior in high school and it had never occurred to me that I might enjoy art. Thank goodness I did because my senior year I signed up for every art class available and headed off to Brigham Young University to study art. BYU was certainly a learning process for me because I wasn’t very successful in the beginning. I started in studio arts and was looking towards animation but ended up studying concept design and illustration. A beautiful hybrid major with a foot in both animation and illustration.

You graduated recently. After graduation I actually moved to South Korea, which is where I currently am! I am a teacher here and have been here since August 2014. I will be wrapping up my time in Korea by stopping in both China and Japan before heading back to Los Angeles, CA. I’ve always wanted to live abroad and really experience a different culture and become a part of it. I have certainly been able to experience a bit of Asian culture while living on Jeju Island, South Korea.

What tools–both traditional and digital–do you use regularly? While traveling I’ve had the incredible chance to observe and draw different things as I go. My favorite form of art making is sketch booking which can be tricky when trying to become a working artist; I have to make a very dedicated effort to make work that doesn’t just stay with me and actually goes out into the world.

In both illustration and animation Photoshop is a key element but I still prefer a touch of the traditional mediums so my favorite tools at the moment are watercolors, inks, pastel pencils, and color pencils. I’ll usually start with an red or blue sketch and then work on my contrasts and color before using Photoshop to tweak or touch up the final product.

What are you working on next? Currently I am mostly sketching and working on a side project or two but my next big project that I am really looking forward to working on is a redesign of some classic American games but with an Asian twist to them. I try to work on a variety of projects and really explore my options with mediums and such. I have also started to work on a couple of children’s books which I hope will be ready to publish by summer next year. Lots of projects in the early stages but looking forward to seeing where they take me over the next coming years!

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